When Colorado Buffaloes' head coach Mike MacIntyre took over for Jon Embree almost three years ago it was the beginning of a new start in Boulder. A new coaching staff, being part of a bigger conference, a dwindling fan base, and trying to scrap together a roster were some of the challenges facing the new look CU team. That chapter along with the past decade of trials and tribulations is hopefully starting to become history. It's going to take more than a win against Colorado State to paint the big picture for the skeptics who called for MacIntyre's resignation after the loss to Hawaii. However, progress is starting to outshine the doubters who are a "doom and gloom one car pile-up."
One great coaching mind believes Mac is on the right track and if it's anyone who knows what he's going through, it would be Bill McCartney. The former legendary Buffaloes coach was in MacIntyre's shoes once. Before reeling off eight consecutive winning seasons including a national championship in 1990, the coach with the most wins in school history didn't start out blazing barns. McCartney's first three seasons from 1982-1984 were disastrous after taking over from Chuck Fairbanks at the lowest point of his tenure. CU had not made a bowl appearance for the eight years prior to the 1985 season. Fairbanks had driven the Buffs football's program into the ground, changed the traditional colors from black to sky blue and left $1 million debt upon his exit.
Mike Penner from the LA Times wrote about the program's transformation in a 1985 article saying,
"The cupboard wasn't bare when Mac took over," one Colorado official said. "It wasn't even built." McCartney inherited a team that had won but five games in three seasons under Fairbanks. What's more, the football program had lost money (due mainly to Fairbanks' bills: $50,000 for a new office, $650,000 for a remodeled team house), players (only 73 left on scholarship because of academic ineligibilities) and the support of the community."
Thirty years later, many similarities exist between McCartney in 1985 and MacIntyre this season. Both took over at a low point from bad coaches and started turning better results before a full recruiting cycle. The Buffs finished the 1985 season with a 7-5 record, after going 1-10 the previous year. McCartney believes in MacIntyre's philosophy for the Buffs going forward and sees great promise with quarterback Sefo Liufau. When it comes to the hecklers, he wants the voices from the outside to be more understanding and have faith.
"Be patient because (Liufau) is going to emerge", McCartney said about people calling for MacIntyre's job. "Rick George is a dynamo. Rick George is a live wire and Rick George will not let the media dictate to him what needs to happen. His instincts, his maturity and his overall ability to asses and evaluate will determine."
McCartney knows the quality that George brings to the table. He hired him as recruiter in 1987 and two years later, he developed his skills as the assistant athletic director. George was very instrumental in the Buffs national championship run and helped to reshape the program. His second stint in Boulder has been successful thus far and McCartney stands behind his leadership.
"Everything rises and falls on leadership. Everything. Every home, every business, every church. Everything is a direct reflection of leadership and I'm saying to you Rick George is the right guy and will make the right decisions."
CU's athletic director is part of the rebuilding process after being in the job just two years. In that time, he's been successful in bringing the athletic department to a better fiscal position, out of the red and into the black. The overhaul has allowed for major facility upgrades and constructing the state-of-the-art Champions Center.
George and McCartney support MacIntyre's initiative with the future of the program. It might take time to get rid of some rough edges, but in the end continuous enhancement is what Colorado Football is striving for. McCartney has been a part of the process and sees the light at the end of the tunnel coming soon.
Colorado's Pac-12 conference schedule will give a clear indication of what is yet to come. The goal of reaching a bowl game this season is still faintly possible but it will take some key wins on the road. CU has yet to win a road game under MacIntyre and the last conference victory away from Folsom was on September 22, 2012 against Washington State (35-34). The Buffs hope to break that streak this season and get back to their winning ways. Keep calm and Colorado on.